I know, I know. About half of you just went weak in the knees. It's an irrefutable fact that most writers fall into one of two distinct camps--you either love revisions and look forward to digging in, or you hate them with every strand of DNA in your being.
I belong to the former camp. And it's also an irrefutable fact that most writers in the "I hate revisions" camp cannot fathom how anyone could love revisions.
I mean, where's the art? Where's the naked flow of words, rushing from an unadulterated muse, breathing life into a story that is growing, raw and wild, from my fingertips? Where's the ecstasy?
Well, it may not be a "naked flow of words", but for the revision-lover, revising a manuscript is art at its finest. It's taking the raw material and sculpting it. Bending and redirecting and sometimes completely overhauling the plot, to make it stronger. All this, and not a single BLANK SCREEN to stare at. Because there are already lots of WORDS to stare at, which is a lot less lonely.
Of course, I do a lot of staring-at-nothing while I'm reworking plot. It's the kind of thinking that makes the inside of my brain ache. Literally. (I'm not the only one who experiences this, right? Right??) But within the framework of a story that already exists, the thinking doesn't overwhelm me. Because I've already done the drafting, and I already know and love my characters.
I love this re-crafting process. Even though I hate the brain-ache that sometimes accompanies it.
I've evolved as a drafter, too, as many of you already know. Not so very long ago, I was a hardcore pantser. I wrote myself into more corners than should be allowed to exist. And yet I stood firm on my "genetic propensity" to pants my way through novels.
Until I read Save the Cat and learned how a simple "beat sheet" could change everything.
So now I plot. No ridiculously detailed outlines; no scene-by-scene planning. I don't think I could ever do that sort of thing. Something about the innate pantser in me. (I accidentally typed "innane pantser", and am now wondering what my subconscious was trying to tell me.)
But having experienced drafting a completely beat-sheeted novel for the first time, I can honestly say that I WILL NEVER PANTS ANOTHER NOVEL. No, really. I'm delighted with this process, and have never had such an easy time drafting a novel. (Remembering, of course, that "easy" is relative.)
So. My lovingly beat-sheeted Newest Novel has come back from the threshing floor of my first round critique partners. I've spent some time despairing, and some time extrapolating all the notes that resonated with me and writing them into my printed-out outline (one of my favorite Scrivener features). And now I'm ready to begin.
And this is the part, I believe, that revision-haters dread. The Facing It All and Figuring Out What the Heck To Do First. And yeah, it's daunting at first. But it's usually not the sort of thing where you start with Page One and just start fixing everything as you go.
Sometimes you have to scribble out extra backstory, and as you do, new ideas and direction begin to grow, and you may have one or more eureka moments. (Which are exhilarating!)
Sometimes you have to write a scene or two that will never appear in your novel. This is usually to help establish a more solid relationship between characters, to help you better develop that in the actual story.
Sometimes you have to ramp up or repair or completely revise a single character's arc.
Sometimes you have to spend A LOT OF TIME THINKING THROUGH A PLOT PROBLEM until the light goes on.
Those of you who know my Josh Story know that, prior to offering representation, Josh requested revisions. There was a particular plot point that had me completely stuck, and I remember sitting on my front staircase in a patch of sunlight one afternoon, my head against the wall, eyes closed. (Oh, the tortured artiste!) And out of NOWHERE came the answer I hadn't been able to come up with. I wasn't even actively thinking of a way to solve it. It just came to me, right there in the patch of sunlight.
I love moments like that.
So here I am, ready for more of those moments. I already love this New Novel, despite the work it needs. And I think I have enough of a game plan now to get the ball rolling. What's really cool--and what has Mr. A feeling pretty darn good about himself--is that it was his critique notes that ultimately gave me the courage to move forward. Don't get me wrong--he's hard on me! I'm not sure what it was about his notes that produced this effect, but I'm not questioning it.
(Well, it might have a tiny something to do with all the references to inside jokes. Or the way he wrote "DD" for "Dorky Dialogue" whenever my characters said something cliche or purple. Or the way he made up names for things in my story as he referenced them, and gave them little trademarks.)
At any rate, this has been a difficult few weeks for me. Discouragement set in last month, and I didn't know if I was going to recover. (Seriously. We all have our ups and downs in this journey, but I wasn't finding my way back up! I was starting to get worried.)
Guess what? I'm on my way back up. And I'm ready to shape this novel into what it's meant to be.
I really do love revising. It's what makes stories sparkle. And while I'm certain I'm going to be facing some I-hate-this-and-I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-next moments in the upcoming weeks, I'm also certain that I'm going to end up with a better story.
My wish for all First Draft Lovers is this: I hope you learn to find equal joy in the revision process. It is no less of an outpouring of your passions than the drafting process, and it is, in fact, where the real magic happens. In my turn, I hope I can some day find joy in writing the first draft (because I hate it). Then I will feel all sorts of balanced. Which will be a good thing.
So happy drafting, happy revising, happy WRITING! We'll all get where we're going if we keep on keeping on.